Taming the Tongue

Recognizing the Power in Our Mouth

                Though it is small, the human tongue is a powerful muscle.  It plays an extremely important role in our ability to speak and communicate.  Although the thoughts we wish to communicate come from our minds, the articulation of those thoughts come through the mouth, manipulated by the tongue.  The tongue is so powerful in our imagery, that we attribute our speech completely to it as though it operates of its own free will. 

                Although the tongue is powerful and the words it produces can build up or tear down, this article addresses another powerful aspect of the tongue, its ability to taste.  Sight, smell, and taste all contribute to our interaction with food.  However, how food taste is the component that determines if we return to a food previously eaten.  Oftentimes, like with our words, we give our tongue the power to determine which foods we eat and do not eat.  This power affects our ability or level of willingness to make healthy food choices.

                In the United States and other Western countries there is an abundance of items to eat.  We have food on the brain, or is it just eating we love?  There is a plethora of dietary options available; some promoting a nutritional advancement over another, while other choices just make us feel good. We love to eat and for the most part will eat almost anything that is visually promoted through advertising.

                While I was caregiver to my husband, I began to look at my own health choices and how my body was responding as I was getting older.  I observed my sister, who had been a vegan for a few years, lose weight and take on a glow of health like I had never seen.  She seemed to have more energy and she displayed a happy disposition.  So, I took a thirty-day vegan challenge from vegan foodie Tabitha Brown. I began to lose weight and feel better.  I too was more energetic and felt satisfied when I ate, eliminating my need to eat constantly.

                I have since then eaten meat, but my meat intake is extremely limited and often I opt for vegan options.  I practice what I call a “plant centered,” lifestyle.  My eating plan begins with a small plate that is at least fifty percent vegetables.  If meat is included, the portion is small and not the entrée.  Processed foods, which is not food at all, are extremely limited and almost non-existent.  Water is my drink of choice.  I strive to only eat when I am hungry and stop eating the moment my hunger subsides. I sit when I eat and intentionally think about what I am eating.  I read food labels, the fewer the ingredients the better. I google unfamiliar ingredients to understand their dietary contribution or if they are harmful.

                These changes in my eating habits along with intermittent fasting have given me more energy and clarity of mind.  I am also able to sleep soundly through the night. Coming from a family prone to diabetes and heart disease, my determination is to live long and strong and work to break the cycle of lifestyle disease.  Yes, I have lost weight, a wonderful result, but not my primary focus.  My goal is to be healthy enough to completely fulfill the purpose for which I exist and to be a good steward of this body I have been given.

                Yes, I engage in some form of exercise daily.  But no matter how much you exercise, you cannot outrun your food choice.  Food is the fuel your body needs to produce energy for body functions.  There are many people who look fit and fine on the outside but are falling apart at the cellular level due to poor eating choices.

                Just as the words that come out of the mouth and spoken with the tongue are a choice, so is the food that enters our mouth and begin the digestion process with the tongue.  Taming the tongue is essential for good health.

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20090323/7-rules-for-eating#1

https://www.iamtabithabrown.com/

Chrysanthemum Blues

                I bought my Mama chrysanthemums in the fall.  She loved them and would always be so happy when I gave them to her.  That special delivery ended last fall.  My mother died the previous January.  I miss buying them for her.  Maybe that is why since the beginning of September this year I find myself in tears almost every day. 

                I deeply miss my Mama.  She was my listening ear, my sounding board, my confidant.  She was so easy to talk to.  She did not interrupt or constantly try to interject her advice.  She just listened intently and actively.  I could tell her anything.  She was not judgmental, and at the end of our talks I always felt.

                I do not remember my Mama being talkative when I was a little girl.  For a long time, I wondered if she could talk at all.  She was calm and quiet and always hospitable.  Everyone who came into her home was welcomed.  She never lied.  She never gossiped.  She had a way of telling you the truth that even if you did not like it you could not get angry at her for telling it. 

                As my Daddy continued to have major health issues, I observed as my mother grew more outspoken.  She took on the responsibility of running the house.  They still made decisions together like they always did, but she generally carried them out.  She made sure the bills were paid on time.  She went grocery shopping.  She made doctor’s appointments.  She conducted business.  She made things happen.

                After my Daddy died, I visited Mama every week.  I was on my own caregiving journey and she understood the challenges and frustration all too well.  We would laugh and talk and watch television.  There was usually a meal involved.  My husband often went with me.  She spoiled him the same way I accused her of spoiling my brothers, my son, and my grandson.

                We had no idea she would be gone so soon.  She slipped away quietly and peacefully, sitting in her rocking chair in her bedroom.  I do not know when she made the decision to transitions.  I am sure the pain of living without my Daddy was strong.  They had been married fifty-three years and loved each other tremendously. 

                I believe everything happening in the world; COVID-19, the racial and political unrest, my husband’s death, and the stress it all produces, has intensified my longing for my Mama’s presence. She would be the one I would call to talk out my feeling about the changes in the world and in my own life.  She was my listening ear, my sounding board, my confidant.  Is it too late in the season to buy a chrysanthemum?

Voting for Survival

                This morning while listening to my local talk radio station, I heard an interview with a variety of college students about the upcoming election.  The interview centered around each student’s alignment with their chosen political party and views on voting choices.

                The republican students interviewed were primarily voting for the republican candidate based on the belief that he will strengthen the economy.  The concern was that they want to graduate college knowing that they will have a greater opportunity for employment and believed the republican candidate would provide that. 

                The students aligned with the democratic party were voting democrat primarily because they did not believe the country would survive four additional years of the present administration.  However, all of them were not necessarily pleased with the candidate. They inferred that democrats are too often placed in a position where they are expected to vote for a candidate that is weak on so many issues.

One student addressed the idea that some people were choosing not to vote because these were tense times and she understood but for her that was not the option.  She alluded to the fact that so often “our people,” meaning Black people, are placed in a position where we must make decisions for survival. 

So, the question becomes, can Black people survive another term of the present administration?  That young woman’s observation struck me.  Black people in this country, whether consciously or unconsciously, are always operating in survival mode.  “I just need to stay alive.”  Simply staying alive is always at the forefront of our mind.  Economic advancement, social status, political power, summer vacations, college funds, monetary investments and other “American Dream,” thoughts play a far second to the thought of staying alive.

My mind went to a scene of an enslaved Black man who knows that when the plantation master sends for his wife it the middle of the night, it was to rape her.  Yet, he could not stop her from going nor could he fight for her honor.  If he stopped her from going, he would be beaten or killed, and master would still have her.  If he fought for her honor, he would be killed, and their children killed or sold, and master would still have her.  So, he does nothing.  He chooses survival.  His family lives another day.  This decision-making process is still at work in us even today.  That is what “the talk,” is all about, how to stay alive another day.

There is no “exhale” moment for us.  There is never a time when we are totally and completely relaxed without a care in the world.  The average Black person knows this and operates in a constant state of conscious breathing because they know how quickly that breath can be taken away.

 Some Black people, those who have amassed money and small amounts of power among our people, seemingly do not realize that status and money do not relieve you of your melanin state of being.  They encourage our people not to vote.

Thinking that they have “arrived” at their destination of capitalistic equality, they protect their own interest. Yet, they are Pinocchio on a marionets string, performing at the puppeteer’s commands while thinking they are free.  This is their survival tactic, yet it does nothing to advance the community to which they must return when the strings are cut, and they are left sprawled on the stage in an abandoned theater.

COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the lives of Black people.  The threat of eliminating health insurance for the poor will leave large numbers of Black people without adequate health care.  States, such as the one I live in are building mega prisons and providing substandard education to ensure that they are filled.  Police officers who took an oath to serve and protect all citizens are gunning down Black people for sport.  Once again, we are finding Black bodies hanging from trees in public spaces.  Food desserts make it impossible for Black people to locate and purchase healthy food and cities populated by Black people still have contaminated water.  These examples represent only a sample of the systems in operation to ensure that Black people either exist in a state of docility or die. 

Can the Black population in America survive four additional years of the present administration?  Answer that question.  Then vote.

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

BEGINNING COUNSELING THERAPY

                Almost thirty years ago, my mother casually suggested that my children and I engage in family counseling.  I was recently divorced and had two small sons.  I responded as I often did back then when she made suggestions.  I brushed it off. As a young woman, I did not value my mother’s observation about many things.  I might even be rich now had I heeded her advice on saving.  I thought I had it all together and knew what was best for me and my family.  Well, I did not have it all together and on many levels my family suffered. 

                Since then, my children and I have had many opportunities to engage in therapy, yet for one reason or another, it did not last.  The truth is, I did not want someone else “in my business.”  I did not want anyone else to witness our family dysfunction.  I had created an image that I did not want anyone to toy with. So, I simply adjusted the weight and carried on.  Women, especially Black women, are masters at this. 

                When I decided to remarry, we went from being a single parent household to a blended family.  Blending a family can be an extremely difficult endeavor. My husband and I ignored our inability to deal with the various aspects of our new family.  We had college degrees but lack the information and skills for successfully blending our families. Like so many other couples of our generation, we assumed things would simply fall in place. The result was a family blended in a rock tumbler. The experience was tumultuous, to say the least. We survived, but not without scares.

                In January 2019, my mother died.  She quietly transitioned while sitting in her rocking chair in her bedroom.  On December 26, 2019, my beloved husband died in the hospital.  These events compiled with the challenges and changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and continued images of racism caused me to experience anxiety and feelings of depressions.  I contemplated going to therapy but could not decide who to trust with my innermost thoughts and feelings.  I found someone in July and made an appointment.  Due to some unforeseen issues, I canceled.  This happened more than once.  Finally, on October 16, 2020, I completed my first session.

                The session was conducted via Telehealth.  I was a little nervous just before logging on and even cried a few tears thinking about what I might be discussing.  My therapist made it so easy though.  The setting was warm and personable. She graciously eased me through the session. Listening intently and questioning effectively, she helped me discover things within myself of which I was unaware.  Then she encouraged me to engage in some activities that would make life less anxious and more enjoyable. When it was over, I felt light and happy and pleased with myself for taking this important first step. 

                After the session, I left home to meet my son for lunch.  As I was driving, I began to cry because I could feel joy bubbling up from my soul.  I could not really explain it except to say that something was being lifted from me. I thought to myself, “If I had known therapy tasted this good, I would have done it long ago.” I was grateful and made a new determination to live authentic and true to myself.

                I realize that there is much work ahead.  However, I am determined to engage life intentionally and with purpose.  I also realize that to do that I need help to identify the many things that are happening within me that may hamper my progress.  In addition, I need assistance in developing strategies for success.  My goal is to live in what Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, calls my GENIOUS ZONE with no upper limits.  Good change is on the horizon of my life and I am here for it. 

Let’s Eat Better

Our body, soul and spirit all need nourishment. Often it appears that in our search for enlightenment and spiritual growth we forget about our bodies. I dare say that in some circles the physical body is just something we endure until the day we are able to leave it behind for a higher plane.

Poppycock! The human body is a magnificent creation and we must give it the care it deserved. I am pleased to see that during our time in this pandemic many people are beginning to take their health more seriously. I too am paying close attention to how I treat my body, including what I put in it. So, starting with this entry I will highlight some food items that have enhanced my quest for better eating while meeting my desire to eat what tastes good.

We Vegan Eats is a vegan bakery located in Tampa, Florida. Fortunately for those of us outside the Tampa area they ship their goods. Last week I received my first order, a cookie sampler box. It arrived earlier than expected and I was excited to burst it open and begin my cookie sampling journey. I think cookies are grand and these did not disappoint.

The box consisted of two of each cookie – red velvet, oatmeal raisin, chocolate chunk, double chocolate chunk, sugar, peanut butter chocolate chunk and snickerdoodle. Each cookie is a nice size, suitable for sharing if you wish. They are reasonably priced at $25.00 per box plus shipping.

According to the ingredient sheet they use applesauce and plant based butter as substitutes for eggs and dairy butter. There is no soy and they even have gluten free options. All I know is that these cookies are delicious and I did not miss the eggs or the butter. My favorites were the red velvet, the chocolate chunk and the snickerdoodle. Each cookie is moist with an almost cake like texture. The flavors linger in your mouth even after the last bite. The cinnamon and suger on the snickerdoodle make it a wonderful compliment to a cup of coffee or tea.

If you have a sweet tooth or simply love cookies as I do. Check out We Vegan Eats. I was more than satisfied and think you will be too.

https://weveganeats.com/

Shade Trees in Flowerpots

Recognizing Church Leadership Responsibility for Growing Fourishing Congregants

                I often listen to Bishop Corletta J. Vaughn as she ministered her series “Pentecost in a Pandemic,” on Facebook.  One morning during her teaching she talked about how she admired the work that many of our Black sisters are doing in Christian academia.  She recalled how she talked to God about how she was really liking what the sisters are doing and how she wanted to be a part of this type of academic endeavors.  To which God replied, “I didn’t call you to that.” “I called you to the masses.” She went on to explain that there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers among the masses that God has called her to empower. There are many people sitting in churches with callings on there lives and no one is ministering to them in a way that encourages or empowers them to walk out the calling.  That struck a chord with me.  Then I heard, “You can’t keep a shade tree in a flowerpot.” 

                A few days later, I was engaged in my morning prayer and purpose lessons with a group of fellow believers know as The MoveMent.  In the lesson Pastor Kris Erskine made an analogy concerning a tree in a flowerpot.  Although I had already begun writing my blog on this topic, now I was convinced that I was on the right track and that this was something I needed to write about.

                In many churches, shade trees are being kept in flowerpots.  There are congregants with great gifts and talents just sitting in literal or virtual pews.  God has endowed them with power and purpose, yet no church leader recognizes them as a gift to be developed for the Kingdom.  When these wonderful people attempt to display their gifts and abilities, they are often shut down.  A perspective that differs from that of the leadership is often perceived as disruptive.  Leaders, who have invested many years getting the congregants to behave and respond in a manner that is conducive to their own way of thinking, refuse to empower these beautiful shade trees by planting them in areas where they can be supportive and refreshing to the church.  Instead these magnificent individuals are potted and sat in a corner where they are overlooked.  Soon their roots compact and in time they die.

                I love gardening.  As a gardener I realize that some plants do well in containers while others must be planted in the ground.  The ones planted in the ground have root systems that go deep and grow outward in search of water.  Their branches need room to spread up and out. That is just how they are designed by the Creator.  On my property there are several pecan trees.  The two in the front yard have grow to the point where they touch each other and form a canopy that not only shades the entire yard but cools the inside of the house also.  It is a welcomed refreshment in the summer to be able to sit outside underneath those cooling branches.  People often come in our yard just to sit under our trees. If you dig almost anywhere in the yard you will eventually hit a part of the root of one of the trees.  These trees were once small saplings capable of living in a pot.  Now they are large trees with expanded trunks and long outreaching branches.  In addition to providing shade from the torturous southern heat, they provide food for any creature that eats pecans and a home for squirrels and a variety of birds.

                My pastor, Dr. Tyree A. Anderson, has taught us that some leaders work to reduce a congregation to a number that they can easily manage.  There are some pastors who many be assigned churches with congregations in the hundreds.  Yet, because of their limited capacity to lead and unwillingness to engage in leadership training, they devise plans that cause congregants to exit or at least become inactive.  Now, the pastor has a number that his/her leadership ability can facilitate.  The leader is relieved and satisfied.  In many cases the congregants pose no opposition, while the church itself is rendered ineffective. That same tactic is sometimes utilized on people who are purposed and gifted to advance the Kingdom of God within the boundaries of local churches.  Such persons are devalued, and their gifts despised and left unused.  Set in a corner and overlooked, these gifted individuals are restricted in their ability to grow to full usefulness to the church and the community. 

                I have heard some pastors talk ugly about congregants who leave their church to become a member of another.  Sometimes the pastor accuses the congregants of church hopping and become resentful.  These mobile congregants often site that they are not growing at their present location.  While it may be true that some people are just never satisfied, I propose that many of those congregants are trying to escape the flowerpot and go where they can be planted in an open space.  Their root systems are spreading out and going down in search of water so that they can thrive in their full purpose. 

                Leaders, including pastors, are tasked with the responsibility of discovering the gifts of their followers and placing them where their gift benefits the entire operation.  Failure to do so results in disgruntled followers and divided congregations.  Unfortunately, some trees destined to be shade die in their flowerpots.  That is a horrible loss to the entire Kingdom.  I predict that in this age many shade trees, if they are not released, will crawl out of their flowerpots and plant themselves.  The danger in this is that they may not receive the proper nutrition and care that newly transplanted trees need to thrive.  The result is a tree that may provide some shade and nutrition but is retarded in its growth and development. 

                Every tree has the right to grow where it will flourish.  Every human has the right to exist where they can live out their full purpose.  Churches must be places where growth is expected, encouraged and empowered.  Church leaders must exercise their gift for recognizing the gifts of others and then like a master gardener, plant, and nurture them to provide beauty, shade, and refreshment for the Kingdom.

https://www.facebook.com/DRVAUGHN

https://kathleenhearod.wordpress.com/

www.themovementdaily.org

https://www.facebook.com/revdrtaanderson

7 Actions Churches Can Take to Prevent Domestic Violence

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233

Most of us are aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Almost everyone is connected to someone who has experienced receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. I have several people that I love who are breast cancer survivors.

Each October a variety of activities get underway to raise money for research to discover a cure for this dreaded disease.  There are walks and memorials.  We have “Pink-Out” days at work and church.  The concerted efforts of a variety of organization ensure that we are aware of the ravaging effects of breast cancer on patients, families and communities.

On every social media outlet and television station we see pink and hear messages that encourage us to work together to annihilate breast cancer.  Everyone from homemakers to professional athletes participate in the “call for a cure.”  However, there is another “disease” that is invading homes and leaving people ravaged and even dead.  Domestic violence is occurring at an alarming rate.  According to Psychology Today, “Domestic violence occurs when a person consistently aims to control their partner through physical, sexual or emotional abuse”. It is one intimate partner using power to gain control over another.  Unfortunately, members of churches are enduring domestic violence and as in other arenas, are suffering in silence.  Listed are six things the church can do to help.

  1. Get to know the people that you attend church with.  When I was growing up, the church I attended was small.  Everyone knew everyone else and we all lived in the same community.  Today, with larger churches and churches with multiple campuses, it is more challenging to know fellow congregants.  In todays dynamic, even members of smaller churches do not always make time to get to know each other.  Members must make an effort to get to know each other.  Attend small group meetings.  Attend church functions.  Leaders must create scenarios where congregants spend time together.  Smaller, intimate settings allow for the building of trust among members.
  2. Become educated.  Know what domestic violence is and how it affects families.  Many websites provide statistics as well as suggestions for offering assistance.  All church small groups should spend some time addressing human concerns in addition to biblical studies.  Domestic violence, especially as it relates to the state and city in which you live, should be on the list of topics discussed.
  3. Volunteer at shelters and other organizations.  Volunteering at organizations that assist victims of domestic violence gives first-hand experience on its affects.  First-hand information will assist church members in becoming effective advocates for domestic violence prevention.
  4. Invite experts to speak.  I realize many of us complain that the church service is already too long.  In these days we are required to shift our thinking in all areas, even church.  As the church is mandated to meet the needs of the people in our communities, we must be knowledgeable on what the needs are and how we can best serve. 
  5. Write your representatives.  Legislation and funding allocations are made in accordance with the demands of the voters.  Churches must begin organizing letter writing campaigns so that legislators know, that as citizens, we are concerned about domestic violence prevention and require our representatives to take action.
  6. Have a plan for assistance.  If someone came to your church and disclosed that they were a victim of domestic abuse what would you do?  What would you do if someone came to your church and disclosed that they were a perpetrator of domestic abuse?  Since we know that this reality exists in our communities, the church must have a plan for addressing it.
  7. Post information on the church’s website and in the bulletin.  The Domestic Violence Hotline number and local organizations that assist victims should be a part of your church communication. 

The local church must be effectively involved in the lives of the people.  We can no longer pretend that the challenges of the world are not prevalent within our church walls.  Once people leave our organized church services they must live in the world.  The church must be a place of safety and refuge for those in trouble.  When necessary, it must become sanctuary.

SOURCES

domestic violence hotline

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/domestic-violence

https://www.ncadv.org/statistics

https://hsric.nlm.nih.gov/hsric_public/topic/domestic_violence/